McFeatters: Jobless numbers bad for all

Job seekers at Primerica job booth at a Job seekers at Primerica job booth at a job fair in San Jose, Calif. (July 25, 2012) Photo Credit: AP Photo Paul Sakuma

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How you view July's unemployment figures depends on where you sit.

President Barack Obama's chief economic adviser, Alan Krueger, said "today's unemployment rate provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression." He urged the country to stand by the president's economic agenda and for Congress to pass the remaining parts of Obama's American Jobs Act.

GOP candidate Mitt Romney called it "a hammer blow to middle class families." His campaign website makes the extravagant claim that a Romney administration would create 12 million new jobs in four years. (Even Obama, no stranger to hyperbole, only promised 5 million new "green" jobs when he was a candidate.)

The Associated Press offered only the faint observation that the new jobless numbers were "a hopeful sign" -- hopeful, perhaps, in the sense that they were much better than expected, although still weak, and they could have been worse.

The unemployment rate ticked upward slightly from 8.2 percent to 8.3 percent; it has been above 8 percent ever since Obama took office.

The economy added 163,000 new jobs, well above the anticipated 100,000 and much better than June's 64,000. Since the start of the year, the economy has added an average of 151,000 new jobs a month, barely enough to keep pace with population growth.

The gains were spread across the economy, except for construction, which lost 1,000, and government employment, which continues to drop, shedding 9,000 jobs last month.

Though modest, the gains were enough for the markets to rise in early trading, but Wall Street opinion was mixed over whether the figures were good enough that the Fed will not have to act in September, or weak enough that it will have to.

This kind of incremental, ambiguous improvement in the economy looks to be with us through the election campaign and that will be the battleground for the candidates.

Obama's economic policies are a known quantity. Romney's economic platform is a detail-free promise to revive the country through tax and regulatory reform and basically undoing, usually on "Day One," everything Obama has done since taking office.

A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll showed 36 percent of voters believe Romney has a better plan for the economy versus 31 percent who think Obama's policies are better.

It all depends on where you sit, and from this vantage point it looks like about two-thirds of the voters don't believe either one.

Dale McFeatters is a senior writer for the Scripps Howard News Service.

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